Cia has dreamed of being selected for The Testing all her life, but thinks her opportunity has passed now that she's graduated from school with no word. But when the Testing officials unexpectedly show up to her colony after graduation and select not just she, but three more graduates, she is elated, even if it means she will be leaving behind her family, possibly forever. Only her father, himself a Testing graduate, shows concern, and as it turns out, not without cause. Almost immediately upon being taken to Tosu City, the Testing becomes a brutal competition between 108 candidates, only 20 of whom will ultimately be chosen to go to University. For sheltered but brilliant Cia, it's an eye-opening experience that culminates in a weeks-long trek across 700 miles filled with danger, disaster, and death. Will it all be worth it?
The Testing is a young adult dystopian with echoes of The Hunger Games and other recent novels that share its theme. However, it is very well written, with the innocence of Cia being its main turning point; Cia believes in only the good in people, and it is both her downfall and its saving grace. There aren't a lot of surprises along the way; it's a dystopian novel, so we know there will be an uncaring government and people who aren't what they seem, with lots of harsh conditions and heartbreak. If I have a complaint about The Testing, it is that the relationship between Cia and Tomas is a little too sweet, but that follows Cia's naivety.
The Testing is the first of a trilogy, and it is well-plotted with its twists and its smart heroine. The set up for the next novel is well done, with a cliffhanger ending that promises more surprises and horror ahead. The Testing doesn't break any new ground, but it does provide page-turning action and an interesting premise which makes it a very good read. I'm hooked.